Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Soto uses children to represent the hope for all people. At the beginning of the poem, the children “leap”—a joyful word, and one that describes well the buoyancy and resiliency of childhood—to the store, just as the “brown kid” leaps across the road at the end. In a larger sense, life beyond the fields is worth leaping for. While money is not the singular criterion for a satisfying life (and while oftentimes in literature money, or the pursuit of it, is equated with corruption), Soto’s poem reminds the reader of the effects of poverty. Too much money may corrupt, but sufficient funds are needed to buy the necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and even the ability to send children to school. Once children of migrant workers are seven or eight years old, and sometimes even earlier, they are typically no longer sent to school but are expected to work in the fields. Thus they work to earn their keep.

The speaker has escaped life in the valley, and he and his daughter “suck roadside/ Snowcones” as they “look about.” They do not “eat,” “nibble,” or “lick” the snowcones, but “suck” them, a much more aggressive word that reflects Soto’s statement,“Worry is my daughter’s story.” Given that he, too, is eagerly consuming his snowcone, the reader notes that it remains Soto’s story as well. The family could conceivably have to go back to that way of life some day; life’s twists leave no one...

(The entire section is 499 words.)